Who We Are
Rick O'Hara is the founder of Stars So Bright. He received his undergraduate degree at Cornell University where he listened to Carl Sagan's lectures on astronomy and discovered an abiding love for this fascinating field. Rick developed the techniques and technology for creating personal planetariums and authored the Installing Your Planetarium DVD. Rick has created personal planetariums in every room of his own house and for many others. He also has donated planetariums to several public libraries where he periodically hosts Starfinding Seminars.
Shefali O'Hara has a B.S.from MIT, where she majored in engineering and minored in creative writing, and an M.S. from Colorado State University. She is currently working on her M.A. in history. She is the creator of the educational DVD, using her unique background in the sciences, history and literature to provide a multi-faceted learning experience.
The History of Stars So Bright
I've had an interest in astronomy ever since my undergraduate days at Cornell, where I attended Carl Sagan's lectures. However, it wasn't until a winter camping trip in New Hampshire that the wonder truly came home. We got there late, and had to hike up into the mountains on a dark, moonless night. The sky was ablaze with stars. I’d never seen anything like it. There wasn't a single spot in the sky that wasn't filled with stars. I finally had a real appreciation for the magnitude of God's promise to Abraham when he said about his descendants, "one day they will be as many as the stars in the sky."
When my wife Shefali was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, which is almost always fatal, she was bedridden while undergoing chemotherapy. I created a planetarium in our bedroom, where the illusion of being under the stars gave her peace and comfort. Later, when she miraculously recovered, I put another planetarium in our living room. When friends came over, we’d sometimes turn out all the lights and chat beneath the living room stars, which, unlike the ones outdoors, came with air conditioning. It may sound silly, but our conversations were always more open, as though we really were outdoors, sitting around a crackling campfire under the stars.
Shefali and I wanted to help others learn more about astronomy and stargazing, so we donated planetariums to libraries, first to the Wichita Falls library, and later to the Grapevine, Irving, Denton, and Hurst libraries, all in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I still periodically host seminars about the constellations, their history, mythology, and how to find them. We always conclude a seminar by handing out star charts and astronomer's flashlights to the attending families. Then we turn out the lights and practice finding constellations in the dark. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite as wonderful as the sound of a hundred children simultaneously gasping with wonder and delight when they see all those stars suddenly appear on what had looked like a regular ceiling.
A few months ago, Bryan and Beth moved in next door with their two boys, Caleb and Ian (4 and 2), and two daughters, Kaitlyn and Brynalise (8 and 7). Beth and Brian home school their children. We quickly became good friends, and I offered to put planetariums in the kids' bedrooms. I did the boys room first. That night, the girls begged to sleep in their brothers' room and were very excited to have their own installed a week later. Beth says that it's now easier to put the kids to bed because they look forward to falling asleep under the stars. A few days ago she told Shefali, "We were driving home last night and Ian pointed out the window and exclaimed, 'See the moon and stars!' He's never shown any interest in the sky before." She says that the planetariums have been a great addition to their study of science and have helped her kids gain a greater appreciation for the wonders of creation. The older children now know the Big Dipper and how to find the North Star, and are learning to find the other constellations.
After some visitng teenagers declared that they wanted planetariums too, we hit upon the idea of putting together a kit so that other families could easily create their own. So that's what we've done. I made a video showing how to install the planetarium. We made an educational video as well. I explain how to use a star chart while Shefali discusses the basic concepts of astronomy, along with some science, history, and the mythology surrounding many major constellations. Since Shefali has an engineering degree from MIT and is now completing her Master's degree in History, she really enjoyed creating this video for you.
The kit includes a star projector and everything else you need to create planetariums in at least two bedrooms. We included a star chart and astronomer's flashlight so you can learn to find the real constellations outdoors. The astronomer's flashlight shines with a red light so you can read the star chart without losing your night vision.
We also included two free software packages: Stellarium, which is planetarium software that shows you the night sky at any time or date, from any place on Earth, and Celestia, which is a starship that lets you travel anywhere in the known universe and see the stars the way they would appear from that spot.
Shefali and I both hope that your planetarium helps you appreciate the real stars a little better. The next time you are outdoors on a clear night, look up. We live in a wonderful, amazing universe. It’s a gift to us all. Let's enjoy it!